Friday, August 20, 2010

Adios, Vista Esmeralda!

On August 6, Nancy & I sold our house in Costa Rica. With all the documents signed and stamped a dozen times, we passed our mountain retreat outside of San Ramon to three Costa Rican sisters.

We bought the lot and partially built house in 2003 when Nancy took Minnesota community college students down for a Spanish immersion semester. I returned in June of that year to shoo the local horses out of the building and restart construction. (The original owners had run into financial difficulties and needed to sell.)

In January, 2004, the first year of Nancy's phased retirement, we returned to Costa Rica where our "completed" house awaited us. My body knew there was trouble ahead because the night before we boarded the plane I broke out in hives for the second time in my life (the first being when I was a kid and Mom sprayed perfume on me).

We spent the next four months dealing with builders, repairmen, and craftsmen, trying to get the house finished...or at least the plumbing to work correctly. I cleaned 120 square meters of tile on my hands and knees, using acid to remove grout, paint, and crud because the workers never bothered to put down tarps when they worked.

Nancy got quite proficient at speaking rural Spanish and using words such as wrench, O-ring, faucet, leak.

God, we worked hard. But then, mid-afternoon, we'd take a break on the veranda, swaying in hammocks, breathing in the fresh mountain air, and looking over coffee and sugar fields to the volcanoes in the distance. Ahhh, we'd landed in paradise!

We still own the lot just below the house. It's a little piece of security, I guess, a bit of holding onto possibilities. When we stayed a few days with our friends Joanna and Jose up the hill, the glorious mornings, the fabulous birds, the fecundity of soil, and the spirit of a community built at the edge of a cloud forest, tempted us to think...hmmm...someday...

But for now, we say adios, Vista Esmeralda. Thanks for wonderful memories and (now) funny stories!


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ways to Shine: A Lesson from Birds

"Birds attract each other in two ways," Gary our local Costa Rican guide says. "Colorful birds attract by their beauty. Plain birds attract by their singing."

Nancy, Gary, & I are hiking along the coast toward Costa Rica's huge Corcovado National Park (what National Geographic has called "the most biologically intense place on Earth") when we spot scarlet macaws in the tall palm trees fringing the beach. Their harsh squawks are unmistakable, like cranky couples squabbling with each other. But the beauty of these tropical parrots is other-worldly. We stand enraptured by the bright blues, reds, yellows and whites.

Then there are “LLBs,” the little brown birds who trill their hearts out. One such bird, the riverside wren, graces our days with liquid tunes floating through the tropical forest. And each spring the clay colored robin, as undistinguished in appearance as its name, burbles the graceful music that harkens the arrival of the rainy season.

The guide's words resonate with me. I’m neither colorful nor tuneful, but my soul finds ways to shine, through my work, my words, my dancing, and my rich, loving relationships. Unlike birds, programmed for either colorful feathers or attractive song, we humans have many ways to be gifted--physical beauty, talents, intelligence, wit, competence, and compassion, to name a few. May we all shine, sing, and express our personal gifts freely and fearlessly, like the flamboyant macaw and the humble wren.


Luna Lodge in the Osa Peninsula

The Osa Peninsula in the southwestern corner of Costa Rica, is home to Corcovado National Park, which contains the largest primary rainforest on the Pacific Coast. Visiting this remote park has been a dream of Nancy and mine for years. Five years ago, we got close, but the arduous hike in searing temperatures into the roadless park kept us at a nearby tent camp accessible by car.

Corcovado still is not easy to get to. We took a 12-seat propeller plane from San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, one hour southwest to the village of Puerto Jimenez. The plane bumped to a stop at a dirt road after taxiing past the town cemetery. "Convenient," our friend Joanna Marsh quipped.

Luna Lodge, where Nancy, Joanna, and I stayed for 4 nights, is at the end of a massively pot-holed road where 13 bridgeless river-crossing require a high-clearance vehicle and courage. The ride from Puerto Jimenez to the lodge would have taken two hours, without the stops to see monkey troupes crossing the road and a flock of chestnut-mandibled toucans.
All-inclusive Luna Lodge provided three satisfying meals a day, mostly organic. Situated about a mile from the coast, it is high enough to be out of the oppressive heat of the shore. The owner, Lana Wedmore, is the gracious proprietor from Colorado whose vision and determination have created a Shangri-La-like retreat in the jungle. Now she is spearheading the White Hawk Project in hopes of raising funds to purchase a large tract of virgin forest between Luna Lodge and Corcovado National Park to protect it from unbridled development.
We loved the quiet lodge, where all we heard were birds, frogs, and falling rain. The open-air yoga studio, where Lana offers classes twice a day, is perched high on the hillside, surrounded by forest with a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean deep in the background. No closing of eyes during that session. My eyes were feasting on nature.

Luna Lodge cabin and howler monkey photos by Joanna Marsh.
Below, Nancy & Becky doing yoga at Luna Lodge overlooking the misty jungle of the Osa Peninsula.
Photo by Klea Brewton-Fitzgerald